Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer has taken to his blog this morning to assuage fears that this year’s Call Of Duty may not come to PlayStation, in light of Microsoft’s ongoing attempted merger with Activision Blizzard. In the same breath, he says franchises like Diablo and Overwatch are headed to Game Pass, though it’s unclear if this will include the upcoming new games (one would assume, but we’ve reached out for clarification). The language also heavily implies that CoD may be coming to the subscription service, should the overall deal go through.
So, separate from the megalithic megacorp machinations at play within all this, the headlines for us as players is that, yes, Activision Blizzard’s big name games will still be coming to PlayStation—for now at least—so you don’t have to worry about one of the biggest franchises in the world suddenly becoming an exclusive. Of course, if the next Call of Duty (or the older series) arrives on Microsoft’s Game Pass, that means anyone without a subscription is paying extra to access the game itself.
The lengthy process of Microsoft’s attempts to consume the beleaguered Activision Blizzard has raised all manner of questions, especially when it comes to international monopoly and merger commissions. But the one that most game players have had throughout is: Will I really still be able to play Activision and Blizzard games on my PlayStation?
Today, Xbox CEO Spencer posted a blog titled, “Gaming for everyone, everywhere,” to reassure Sony customers that such games will still come their way. Emphasizing his uncontrollable love of “choice,” the bossman oddly choose to prattle on about mobile and Activision’s vital role in helping them conquer that massive market, before finally re-confirming their intention to see Call Of Duty on Sony machines. And how he intends to do this by “pursu[ing] the principled path.”
We’ve heard that this deal might take franchises like Call of Duty away from the places where people currently play them. That’s why, as we’ve said before, we are committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation on the same day the game launches elsewhere. We will continue to enable people to play with each other across platforms and across devices. We know players benefit from this approach because we’ve done it with Minecraft, which continues to be available on multiple platforms and has expanded to even more since Mojang joined Microsoft in 2014.
Spencer didn’t wake up feeling altruistic. This post appeared right as the UK’s competition regulator declared its intention to double-down on its investigation into the $68 billion merger of the two mega-corporations, during which they specifically cited concerns about the console exclusivity of Bethesda games since Microsoft’s acquisition of that company last year. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wrote, “The CMA found that the potential strategic benefits to Microsoft of using ABK’s content to foreclose rivals—such as expanding the Game Pass user base and strengthening network effects in its gaming ecosystem—could outweigh any immediate losses in terms of licensing revenues.”
It’s worth noting that deliberately not selling your games to tens of millions of people might perhaps be a bad idea not just because of Spencer’s abundance of “principle,” but also because of, you know, the vast amounts of lost money. CoD sales are already struggling when compared to the series’ heyday, and cutting out half of your potential customer base might just hurt it a little more. But we’re sure it’s mostly the principle of the matter.
Another key point: Spencer appears to be deliberately vague here about the certainty of day one releases for the big-name Activision Blizzard titles on Game Pass. He says the previous games in the series will be on the service, and then that they will release on PlayStation “on the same day the game launches elsewhere.” [Our emphasis] We can assume it’s going to happen, especially given how games like Call Of Duty and Overwatch are built from the ground up to gobble microtransactions and extra paid content that wouldn’t need to be included in the subscription version.